Thursday Notes: Game Prep Finished

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers finished its last practice before heading to North Carolina for Saturday's game, and afterward coach Greg Schiano talked about expansion, injuries, quarterback depth, starters, running back depth and the significance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers finished its preparations for its first road trip of the season when it travels to North Carolina for Saturday's 12:30 p.m. kickoff, and in his final media session coach Greg Schiano gave few answers to pertinent issues.

Schiano said after Thursday's practice Michael Larrow would start and Manny Abreu was a possible starter at defensive end, Mohamed Sanu would start as the punt returner but others could see action, the kick returners remain in question and he is comfortable with the depth at running back and the play of the tight ends.

"The guys have worked hard, they have good focus, they know the level of competition we're performing against," Schiano said. "I don't think they're nervous about it, but they understand it's going to be quite a challenge."

Schiano said the starting running back would be predicated on the package to begin the game, but added he is comfortable with De'Antwan Williams, Savon Huggins, Jeremy Deering and Jawan Jamison in the backfield.

"It's more talented, more depth, more seasoned," he said of the backfield options. "Some of the same guys are here. We need to run the football, but they're going to be hard to run the football against. They're very good on defense. They run so well. You may have an opening, and then it closes so quickly."

At tight end, D.C. Jefferson and Paul Carrezola remain in close competition for the primary spot. "D.C. deserves to start. Paul deserves to start," Schiano said. "In my mind, we have two starters, which is good."

Injury update
Schiano said left guard Desmond Wynn (leg injury) could play

"He's got a chance," he said. "I'm not sure how we'll do that. He's got a chance. We have to see how well he feels. There's nothing big (injury-wise), other than that."

If Wynn does not play, Betim Bujari is the expected replacement.

Kickoff return changes
With Mason Robinson (knee injury) out for the season, the Scarlet Knights have to replace a punt and kick returner. While the punt returner is known, the kick returner paired with Jordan Thomas remains a question.

"It's a series of people, but I don't know how we're going to do that yet," Schiano said. "We're going to talk about that. Punt return, I think it will probably be (Mohamed Sanu) to start the game."

Quarterback experience
Scarlet Knights sophomore Chas Dodd has experience starting on the road, but backup Gary Nova could make his first appearance against a FBS school. So, while there is comfort in Dodd playing on the road, there is uncertainty if Nova is needed.

"Chas has shown me that it is not going to faze him,' Schiano said. "Gary hasn't played in that situation. If he gets in there, hopefully he'll be able to handle it. I have to believe, from the environment he came from, playing at Don Bosco Prep, they played in some games (but) nothing like this. I think Gary will handle it. His DNA …he's a very cool customer."

Also, Schiano said walk-on freshman Paul Hamersma of Tenafly (N.J.) High is the third-string quarterback.

"We made a decision coming out of training camp we're going to try and red-shirt (freshman) Mike Bimonte, and Paul has done a nice job," Schiano said. "If we ever get there, that's where we'll go."

Speaking with Huggins
When Huggins announced his decision to attend Rutgers at a January ceremony, he chose the Scarlet Knights over North Carolina and Notre Dame. And the announcement included Huggins first donning a Tar Heels hat, then flipping it off to reveal a Rutgers hat underneath.

Because of that, Huggins could get a rude welcome from the Tar Heels fans.

"I've talked to him," Schiano said. "Savon's mature. He gets it. There's one way to handle that; focus on your job and not let anything else outside affect you in any way."

Defending Renner
UNC sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner completed 22 of 23 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the season-opening win against FCS James Madison.

"He was comfortable,' Schiano said. "I'm sure JMU wanted to disrupt his rhythm. They have a very good offensive line and they understand their protection screen very well. JMU brought some heat, but it got picked up.

"Like I said, that wasn't me being overly flattering about them. They have probably, if not the best o-line in the country, then one of them. They're big, they're very active, they're athletic."

Captains Placekicker San San Te, who is from North Carolina, Art Forst, Justin Francis and Desmond Stapleton were named game captains.

Remembering 9/11
There will be plenty of ceremonies this weekend to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Schiano still have vivid memories about the day, and the aftermath.

"Being born and raised here, a lot of people I know lost their lives, or friends lost their lives, or husbands or wives …fathers. A lot thoughts," Schiano said. "I remember the Tuesday (before) …we were the first ones to cancel our game in the country. Bob Mulcahy came up to the field ….our kids wanted to practice. They didn't want to sit around.

"One of our kids, Jason Grant, we thought his mother was in the (Trade Center Building), so we were trying to find out …thank God she stayed home from work that day. You could see the smoke from the field. On the horizon, you could see the smoke. I remember that day very vividly."

Expansion talk
Conference re-alignment and shifts in the league landscape dominate college football headlines, and Schiano weighed in with his perspective.

"I really don't have any control over it, other than I talk to (athletic director) Tim (Pernetti) a little bit so we stay in touch with what's going on," Schiano said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you I don't have any thoughts about it. It is musical chairs, but you better make sure you have a chair when the music stops.

"But I trust Tim and the administration in putting Rutgers' best interest in the lead. I hope that things can settle down, but from everything I'm hearing, it looks like it's going the other direction. It's getting stirred up.

"But I know one thing, if we don't take care of our business, it's not going to matter where we're playing."

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